Only one in ten uninsured enrolled in Obamacare: Survey
According to two new surveys published yesterday, uninsured Americans are staying away from Obamacare in droves.
The people the law was supposed to help the most, are voting with their pocketbooks and not signing up. One survey by McKinsey & Co. shows that just one in ten uninsured Americans have signed up so far for Obamacare.
Another survey by the Urban Institute shows that the uninsured are not signing up because they don't believe they can afford it.
“If there is one point to the law, it is to lower the number of uninsured,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-policy organization. “Ultimately, that has to happen for the law to be judged a success.”
With just over three weeks remaining in a six-month sign-up period, the question of how many uninsured people are gaining coverage is eluding both Obama administration officials and most of the private health plans being sold through the new marketplaces.
Inside the Department of Health and Human Services, staff analysts who have been producing monthly enrollment updates are confronted with a major hindrance to examining the question of people’s prior insurance status: the wording of the HealthCare.gov applications themselves.
The paper versions of applications, used by a small fraction of people who are signing up, contain a multiple-choice question asking whether people in a household currently have insurance. “No” is one of the boxes people can check.
But the online application, which most people use to enroll, asks whether people want to apply for coverage but does not give them a place to indicate whether they have insurance now or have had it in the past. As a result, HHS analysts have no way to assess how many of the online enrollees were uninsured in the past.
“We are a looking at a range of data sources to determine how many marketplace enrollees previously had coverage,” said Julie Bataille, director of the Office of Communications at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency overseeing the new insurance marketplaces. “Previous insurance coverage is an important metric, and we hope to have additional information in the future,” she said.
In the absence of information from people who have enrolled, Obama administration officials have drawn attention to recent outside polls that suggest that the overall number of uninsured Americans is declining. It is not clear, however, whether the trend is because of the health-care law or other reasons.
Once the uninsured realize that the IRS will come after them unless they buy insurance, they will no doubt find a way to pay for it - or accept enrollment in Medicaid for those eligible. The question is, what will they give up in order to get insurance? Contributions to retirement or college funds for their kids? Vacations? This is one aspect of Obamacare that is rarely discussed; the diversion of family wealth to insurance companies. It might be argued that a prudent family would be putting that money in a health savings account, or mutual funds. But, of course, that would be their decision - not the government's.
I suspect that eventually, the unisured will slowly come around - unless Obamacare and the individual mandate can be repealed. At that point, it may be possible for those without insurance to have some real choices and truly affordable care.